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Hakuba

Happo, Hakuba. - March 31st, 2014

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#1
NECK

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Happo is a resort that I have held a season pass for a couple of times in the past. The resort itself is a little too bumpy for my taste, but the main selling point for me is the easy access to the backcountry from the top Grat Quad lift.

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I also used to like the ‘High Cascade Park’ that was a feature for a few seasons on the course far skiers left of the resort, served by the Kitaone 3 Pair lift. Unfortunately, that park no longer exists and has been replaced by something called ‘Happo Banks’ at the same spot.

So I was a lucky winner of what I think was the first SJ Giveaway of the 2013/14 season. I won a day ticket to use at Happo. Thanks Snow Japan!

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I ended up using this ticket a little later in the season than I had initially planned, so I apologise for the delay in posting my trip report.

Monday, March 31st was a sunny, fairly warm day. I set off from my house at around 8:15am and arrived at the Snow Plaza Sakka number 8 car park a little after 9am. I wouldn’t usually park here, but my plan was to go and check out the Happo Banks park. Getting there from the Adam Gondola would have taken more time and a couple of lifts. Also, I was riding alone and had no intention of hiking the ridge-line above the Grat Quad to ride the BC lines.

So I got my ticket and headed to the Sakka Kitaone Quad lift to get me up to the Happo Banks park. The lady at the ticket window told me that it was now impossible to ride back down to the Sakka Plaza area, and I would need to take the lift back down instead. She wasn’t kidding the whole base area looked positively brown with all the bare patches coming through the snow, which was looking very thin on the ground already!

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Looking around on the lift ride up, it was a similar story most of the way up towards the middle elevation of the resort. The end of March seemed a little early for this kind of melting, but the whole valley had been subjected to some pretty serious rain events the previous week. That coupled with the very mild temperatures had really taken its toll on the base at the lower elevations.

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I spent the first couple of hours lapping the Happo Banks park on the Kitaone 3 Pair lift. Some of my friends seem to like this park, but I really have no idea what they were trying to achieve with it.

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It is basically just a series of really low, gentle banks with a few ‘humps’ placed down the centre of the course. The humps have gentle tranny sides, so they can be approached as mellow hips I guess, but basically the whole park is really gentle and kind of boring. I lapped the course a good dozen times I’d say and picked as many lines as I could through it in that time. The snow was slushy and slow, but I was amused enough for a little while at least. I wouldn’t recommend this area for park riders and it is definitely nowhere near as good as the old High Cascade park that it has replaced.

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I decided to spend the reminder of the day just riding around on course a little higher up the mountain. I rode down to the Skyline 2 Pair lift to get higher up the mountain. The course below the lift was already closed due to lack of snow! The Skyline 2 Pair is possibly one of the slowest lifts around, but it gives you some nice views of the surrounding mountains, especially on a clear day.

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I decided to go to the top and take a nice long cruiser down as far as I could go. On reaching the station of the Grat Quad lift the wind had really picked up. Riding up the lift it was positively howling! I wasn’t really expecting/dressed for those conditions, but I zipped up all my vents and got on with it. At the top of the Grat Quad, I battled the wind and walked far skiers’ left of the resort area to have a little look down the first big gully ending at the river at the end of the popular BC lines. It was looking sketchy down there and there weren't any groups were hiking up the ridge-line above the lift.

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From the top of the Grat Quad lift I did a run down the Skyline course, as it the run with the least bumps. The run was basically empty and the snow was much better spring sugar snow than the slush lower down the mountain. I did this run a couple of times, as well as a few of the bumpier runs served by the Alpen Quad and the Happo Tenbo lift, before deciding to call it a day early and head off into the village for lunch.

I got back to my car a little after 2pm and went to Tanukis, near Hakuba station for lunch. It was their last day for the season, so I needed one last hamburger there!

All in all I had a fun day at Happo. I was a little surprised by how thin the snow was at the bottom and by how windy it was up at the top. Thanks again for the ticket Snow Japan!

#2
TubbyBeaverinho

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I love the pictures of the peaks around Hakuba, definitely has that big mountain Alpen feel to the area, more so than a lot of the other resort areas I've been to in Japan
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#3
NECK

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View PostTubbyBeaverinho, on 08 April 2014 - 10:07 AM, said:

I love the pictures of the peaks around Hakuba, definitely has that big mountain Alpen feel to the area, more so than a lot of the other resort areas I've been to in Japan

Agreed. Also the only resort with easy access to a true alpine environment.

#4
ethanbaggett

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View PostNECK, on 08 April 2014 - 10:17 AM, said:

View PostTubbyBeaverinho, on 08 April 2014 - 10:07 AM, said:

I love the pictures of the peaks around Hakuba, definitely has that big mountain Alpen feel to the area, more so than a lot of the other resort areas I've been to in Japan

Agreed. Also the only resort with easy access to a true alpine environment.



So agree! Japan's really has one of the best Alpine mountains in the world. Never been in Hakuba yet, but think I will include this on my bucket list. ^_^

#5
Metabo Oyaji

     

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Quote

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Looks like Golden Week. (Not familiar with Happo, though.)
Did they get a top-up the next week though, I wonder?
Might actually have looked better after that?

#6
muikabochi

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Doesnt surprise me. When I went to Haluba a few years back in March it was barer than that.
As I observed then and another time, Hakuba doesn't seem get all that much snow low down and it clears up quick.

#7
TubbyBeaverinho

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I wonder if it's just Happo.....I went to 47 in April a few years back and you were still able to ride top to bottom.......JUST! :) at the bottom there was a narrow ribbon of almost water snow kept together to allow it :lol:
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#8
muikabochi

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Possibly, the base of 47 is north facing isn't it?

Here's Goryu now

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#9
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Yes it is, totally north facing. Base of Goryu is more like east facing.







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